A Book Review: We Were Liars

CAUTION: Major spoilers ahead.

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Alternate titles for this post:

That time I realized not all YA lit sucks.

So I joined a book club I found online… does that make me a loser?

When plots twists make you feel like your whole world flipped upside down.

we were liars

So yeah, after wanting to join a book club for years but not knowing any to join or where to even find one to join, I put the question out to the Facebook world and was directed towards the Meetup app, where I found a girls-only group to join!  I can’t decide if that’s awesome or desperate.  Is this like online dating for fellow reading fanatics?  Anyway, I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive when I hit up B&N and found this month’s book, We Were Liars, in the Young Adult section.  In my experience, YA lit is pretty superficial, predictable and kind of mindless.  But!  Turns out my literature snobiness needed a check and it totally got one with this book.

The book, in a nutshell, is about a rich white family that spends every summer on a private island, but the eldest grandchild (who is also the narrator) has some kind of accident during “Summer 15″ and the rest of the book details her struggle to remember what happened and why no one in her family is willing to talk about it.  In the end, it turns out “the accident” was a fire she started with her cousins that resulted in their deaths.  She’s the only one who lived.  Whoa!  What!  I read that twist during my lunch break one day and was so distracted for the rest of the work day.

I guess the reason I liked the book so much was because it defied all my expectations.  The characters weren’t stupid.  The writing wasn’t juvenile.  The story was deeper than some WASP-y private island drama.  And I DID NOT see the plot twist coming.  In fact, no one in my book group saw it coming.  If  you think about it, that’s pretty impressive.  I actually found the writing to be enjoyable and creative.  There’s some interesting stuff going on stylistically that sort of reminded me of poetry.  I.e. short choppy sentences, line breaks, repetition (but not in an annoying overdone way), etc.

What’s more, the dialogue was done well (I usually think dialogue is entirely unnatural/unrealistic), the main characters were well developed and felt real (which is probably why I was doing some serious holding back of tears at the end) and the plot felt thought out.  One of my biggest book pet peeves is when I can feel that the author has a general idea of things but is kind of winging it and figuring out details as they go.  That wasn’t the case here.  E. Lockhart seemed to have a firm grasp on her characters, her plot and the details that connected the first page to the last.  Her writing felt confident.  I like that :)

P.S.  I think I really liked book group!

Unplanned Weekend Things

Joey and I weekend differently.  (Yeah, I just used weekend as a verb.)  He’s fine heading into Friday evening without a plan, whereas I’ve pretty much been looking forward to Friday since… uh Monday, so I already have a solid plan of things I want to do.  But this weekend, we had no plans.  No list of things we had to do, or even a list of things we wanted to do.  I was deliberately trying to remain plan-less because sometimes spontaneous decisions are the name of the game.

And because having no plans means your husband can announce over breakfast on Friday that “we should leave work early and go to happy hour again!” and ain’t nothing standing in your way.

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Let it be known that not being able to find a happy hour menu on a restaurant’s website is never a good sign.  Because we showed up to Will Call and found out their HH menu is limited to a few beers and there weren’t even any food deals.  Say it isn’t so!  But eh, when that happens, you just order an $8 cocktail and an arepa filled with fajita veggies and melty cheese and forget all about that lame HH menu.  Also, are you seeing those sweet potato fries?

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Saturday morning coffee field trip.  Real Question: How do you move from being cordial with your local coffee shop baristas to being that regular whose name they know and drink order they anticipate?  Is there a natural way to announce your name after being a customer for over a year?  P.S. It’s aaaalmost officially full on iced coffee season.

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We seriously debated going to Home Depot on Friday after our happy houring was over then decided that was a little more married couple than we’re comfortable with at this stage in our relationship and put it off till Saturday.  Check that new shelf out, man!  And oooh, look at that electrical outlet cover.  Wait, does it look crooked to you too?  That shelf was my vision all along and I love it.  Also, this post should be sponsored by Huckleberry Roasters.

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We walked over to our friends’ jewelry and vintage clothing store that afternoon for a little event.  Denver Beer Co. had just dropped off some beer and this tasted perfect on a sunny spring day.  Also, we took some time to check out the footwear on the other men at the event and decided Joey and his Nike running shoes did not fit in.

When we got back home, we were like “what do we do now?”  So we asked Hannah and Josh over for a little BBQ action.  Because there’s nothing like dropping $70 on groceries then deciding you just want a burger and chips for dinner instead.  Beer was consumed, burgers were cooked to that perfect medium rare, outdoor air was breathed and to top it all off, we played old YouTube videos of I Love the 90’s (because everyone should know that show as well as I do!) and laughed our heads off.

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Remember when I used to make pancakes every Sunday and hashtag it #PancakeSunday?  Does two weeks in a row mean Pancake Sunday is officially back?  And could the griddle pattern on those yogurt pancakes be any prettier?  Once we were properly fueled with pancakes and coffee and had forced ourselves to get our tax stuff together, I spontaneously announced that I wanted to go on a hike.  Who am I?

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An hour later, sandwiches were packed, water bottles were filled and we were at the start of the Chautauqua trail in Boulder.  I mean, we took a 20 minute detour when I accidentally led us in the wrong direction and we were both starving by the time we reached the Royal Arch but we finally made it and that’s all that matters.  Or something.

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Ended Sunday with laundry, two episodes of The Wire and this vegan roasted veggie bowl.  Yes, that is a pile of crushed peanuts on top and yes, it was life changing.

Happy Monday!

On Recipe Testing

Did you know Recipe Tester is an actual job?  I mean, it makes sense.  Someone has to try out all the recipes that end up getting published in cookbooks and magazines, but I guess it’d never really crossed my mind.  That is, until a local magazine I follow on Twitter, tweeted out a link for a cookbook writer looking for volunteer recipe testers.  Sign me up!

Now that I’ve been chosen, cooked my three assigned recipes and turned in all my evaluation forms, I thought I’d share some more about the experience.  And pay attention because after spending a good amount of money on the ingredients and only liking one out of the three recipes, it’s probably safe to say my recipe testing career is over.

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This was Recipe #1, a seafood-stuffed baked phyllo packet.  And then it was topped with a whole grain mustard sauce… yes!  I made this on a Sunday, thinking it would be the most time consuming, but this ended up being the quickest of the bunch.  Also, it was delicious.  Sadly, shrimp and crabmeat are kind of expensive and this will probably be the only time we ever make this dish.  Wah, wah.

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Recipe #2: A smoked turkey, hearts of palm and mushroom salad that was all over the place.  First of all, it served EIGHT and who needs to make eight servings of anything??  Also I thought it was going to be more like chicken or tuna salad consistency but it turns out smoked turkey is more like chunks of ham, aka pretty dense.  The whole things was just weird.  Not to mention that part where one can of hearts of palm is $5 and I needed three of them.  I think Joey ate a majority of this one :)

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Last recipe was a cheese grits soufflé, which sounds pretty fun, but was so bland it hurt.  I should’ve known right away when there was NO SALT in the recipe, but part of being a recipe tester means you have to follow the recipe exactly as written.  Also, this took two hours to make between prepping the ingredients and actually baking the soufflé.  Luckily, we made it on a Saturday, otherwise I think dinner would’ve ran straight into bedtime.  That kale salad, though!

So all in all, the whole experience ended up being a pricey/time-consuming let down.  And there go my dreams of being a professional recipe tester!  Just kidding, I think most people who do that for a career have culinary degrees :)  The only upside?  It made cooking things I picked myself extra fun this week!

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It’s Friday AND the first day of spring!  Do you have fun weekend plans?

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